Growing up, we learn to share our toys, speak kindly and help others.
We probably didn’t learn that doing these things will lead to a fuller existence and a healthier life.
While there are many things that will make us feel fufilled, content and happy, have you ever considered that generosity is one of them?
How does helping people in the spirit of generosity make us happier and healthier?
The research behind generosity helping you to live a long and happy life
People who are generous experience mood enhancing transformations, according to a recent study by Philippe Tobler of The University of Zurich in Switzerland.
Tobler gave $100 to 50 participants over the course of a few weeks. Half of the participants were directed to spend the money on themselves and the remaining participants being asked to spend it on someone they already knew.
Find out whether thinking of the person you’re being generous to stimulates regions of the brain associated with happiness.
Here were the results:
Those who were asked to spend money on someone else had higher levels of interaction between the areas of the brain that display altruism and happiness and they also displayed higher levels of happiness once the experiment was over.
It was also noted, for those of you who are budget crunching in the name of generosity, that the amount to which you are generous does not change the mood enhancing results.
The same results are triggered whether you give a friend a simple card or an expensive gift.
Tobler explains additional health benefits. He notes “there is a positive association between helping others and life expectancy, perhaps because helping others reduces stress” and aren’t we always looking for ways to reduce stress in our lives?
Questions have been raised by researchers about whether simply expecting something in return for your generosity would render the results void because then you’re doing something simply for gain, not out of the spirit of being generous.
It does however, instill in us the habit of generous behavior leaning towards a more altruistic path.
So what can you do to up your generosity game? Here are few simple, cost effective ways to put into practice. A few may even surprise you.
1. Write a card or a note
Gone are the days of the handwritten notes and cards but the person on the receiving end will really appreciate the thought, care and time you put into giving them something simply special. Thank them, wish them well, or just because, a small thought makes a big impact.
2. Have a real conversation
We live in a text happy world, which is great for certain things but nothing beats a face to face conversation. Hide the phone, put it on silent and give that person your undivided attention. If you can’t see them in person give them a call, a voice and it’s tone lends to empathy, caring and concern.
3. Clear out and donate
Go through your closet, your kitchen drawers, your jewelry box, and your books. You’ll feel much better for clearing your clutter and you’ll be helping out by donating to a charitable cause. Many cities offer clothing drive collections where they come straight to your house to collect items you’ve chosen for donation.
4. Pay attention
Paying attention to someone’s likes and dislikes can really make a difference in their day. Remember what kind of coffee your friend prefers and make sure to have that ready for when she visits. Drop off mom’s favorite cookies or flowers, attention to detail is key and shows a kind and generous spirit.
These are really simple things to add to your daily do’s for personal growth and what’s better than doing something that benefits not only yourself but someone else.
Original study published in Nature Communications.